Ask a Senior Analyst — Christine MacNulty


Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Christine MacNulty. Questions and Ms. MacNulty’s answers are transcribed below.

Christine MacNulty

Christine MacNulty, CEO of Applied Futures, Inc., has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic planning for concepts as well as organizations. She has also specialized in understanding cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and NATO. She has also worked with many Fortune Global 500 companies.

She is the co-author of Strategy with Passion: A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, to be released in November 2014.

Christine MacNulty: Since both questions relate to Values, some background is required:

Values are emotional constructs that underpin attitudes and behavior. They are closely related to beliefs, which are convictions that are held to be true by individuals or groups and they are also related to psychological needs. They are longer term and they change only slowly. Beliefs are long-held perceptions that have generally been inculcated from birth by family, teachers and leaders of the society, although they can and do change slowly over time. In some cases they may change quickly, generally through some extreme (good or bad) event. Motivations are the factors that compel a person or group to act and they are functions of values, beliefs and needs. Understanding motivations helps us understand why people do as they do. Behavior tells us the what people are doing. If we understand the why, we have a greater chance to anticipate what people are likely to do next.

The values models we use are based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and augmented by the work of Shalom Schwartz, Geert Hofstede, Ron Inglehart and others.

Monica J. Jerbi: A number of peer-reviewed studies analyzing the cultural theories of Hofstede (1984), Triandis (1995) and Schwartz (1994) show how macro-social and macro-economic variables impact and actually change culture over time, particularly in regards to individualism/collectivism, power distance and autonomy/conservation. These values also shape a country’s ability to transition to a functioning pluralistic democracy, rate of economic development, the likelihood of extreme corruption derailing democracy, etc.

Considering war disrupts macro-social and macro-economic variables, how does this make framing behavioral/strategic communications messages to alter behaviors and attitudes (particularly aimed at potential insurgents and terrorists) harder and what can be done to overcome these additional obstacles?

Answer: First, from my own perspective, I think that assigning a direction of causality to such factors as macro-economic variables is difficult, especially with respect to values. Factors such as access to education and communication may increase the numbers of people with certain values more rapidly than they would otherwise, but it’s a change in values in the first place that creates and increases the demand for the education and communication. And the question itself states that values shape such elements as democracy, economic development, etc. And I agree with that.

However, moving on to the second part of the question: At a very broad-brush level, war generally occurs because one leader/group with one set of values wants to vanquish another for reasons of land, resources, historical argument, religion or ideology. The instigators of the conflict are unlikely to be dissuaded by any communication short of believable threat of annihilation. The people who may be dissuaded are the followers or those who support the fighters in some way.

Understanding values offers one of the greatest benefits to effective influence and communication campaigns. Because they operate at a deep emotional level, messages that appeal to values are far more influential (for good or ill) than messages that address attitudes or behavior — they resonate more deeply and they are more memorable. If we want to influence behavior, of nations, groups or even the behavior in the marketplace, then the closer we can come to appealing to values, the more likely we are to be effective in our efforts.

However, there is an important element here: people are very reluctant (absent force) to act in opposition to their values — especially when they are tied to ideology, religion or honor. The West has sometimes failed to take cognizance of this, and thus campaigns have failed. Understanding values thoroughly enables the crafting of more effective campaigns.

Many strategic communications campaigns, information operations and psychological operations have addressed behavior. Clearly, we would like to prevent people from joining ISIS, for instance, just as we would like to stop people from planting IEDs, but unless we can understand people’s motivations for those actions, that is not likely to happen. And then, once we know their motivations for such behavior in the first place, we need to understand how we, in the West, can motivate them to do differently. And we may not be able to. It may take access to better education, jobs, changes of governments and other action within their own countries.

Having read interviews with former foreign fighters, especially second-generation Middle Eastern and Asian immigrants from the United Kingdom and the United States, it seems that some have felt like second class citizens within those countries, unable to make their way in society, the educational system and employment. Shame and guilt, values inculcated in their parents’ countries, are powerful motivators. They seem to need the validation of honor earned in battle to gain a measure of self-worth. Do we know enough to know how to overcome motivations of this sort?

Finally, what can we do to improve strategic communications? The first thing is to think strategically. Think about Nth order effects. If we have a vision and strategy with respect to a particular country or terrorist group, for instance, then responses to events can be crafted in the context of that trajectory, and can be aligned with the overall strategy. If we have no strategy, then no amount of reactionary crisis communications can make up for that lack of strategy. (more…)

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When Scotland Leaves the UK: Report Released


When Scotland Leaves the UK banner

On September 18, Scotland will vote in a landmark referendum on whether to secede from the United Kingdom. The vote on independence will determine the shape of the country’s political environment for years to come.

WSLUK Report cover

Earlier this year, Wikistrat ran a three-week long crowdsourced simulation to map the opportunities available to an independent Scotland, risks it might face and the likely trajectories it could take as a new state.

The pro-independence Scottish National Party envisions an independent Scotland as one of Europe’s wealthiest countries, with an economy based on a highly educated population, large North Sea oil reserves and the development of a renewable energy export industry. It would also put a robust social welfare system at the heart of Scotland’s political system.

Critics contend that Scotland would face financial, economic and security risks that could strangle the new state. Scotland would also face challenges when it comes to redefining its political and economic relationships with the rest of the United Kingdom, the European Union and NATO. Fundamental issues such as currency, trade relations, economic unions and collective security would have to be worked out during the two years between the referendum and formal independence — which is no small task.

Considering these risks and opportunities, Wikistrat evaluated four master scenarios for charting Scotland’s emergence as an independent country by the year 2020, assuming it secedes from the United Kingdom within the next five years. These “Master Narratives,” outlined in the simulation’s report by Wikistrat Senior Analyst Jeffrey Itell, show that independence offers only modest rewards and many risks, including the chance that Scotland’s situation becomes so dire that it is forced to seek reunification with the United Kingdom.

Click here or on the cover image to download the full PDF report.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

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New Wikistrat Simulation: Ebola – A Global Health Challenge


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An outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa has given rise to fears of a pandemic. But despite the panic, there might be opportunities as well. The outbreak could be a wake-up call for the region and accelerate the expansion of private health care infrastructure there.

Ebola spread globe

This week, Wikistrat launches a new crowdsourced simulation to study the challenge posed by the Ebola virus outbreak to health policy globally. The simulation allows analysts to propose both positive and negative outcomes within comprehensive, competing scenario pathways of the disease’s spread and termination.

Since a major outbreak of the Ebola virus disease was first reported in Guinea in March 2014, an epidemic has spread across West Africa. This already marks the worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history. The disease is no longer contained to the region: A Saudi Arabian man traveling home from Sierra Leone is believed to have died of Ebola in early August. Two American aid workers were infected in Liberia.

While the spread of the epidemic raises the prospect of countries shutting their borders and fending off immigrants, there are arguments against Ebola becoming a true pandemic. The virus is not airborne and cannot survive outside the body for long. Symptoms show relatively quickly and patients typically die before infecting more than one or two others.

Fears of a pandemic nevertheless abound. Saudi Arabia has stopped issuing visas to Muslim pilgrims from West Africa. British Airways this month suspended all flights to and from Liberia and Sierra Leone — while most Western governments have advised their citizens to avoid the region. Civil unrest, the absence of adequate medical services and low trust in both authority and foreign aid workers might yet pose the biggest risk.

WS AnalystsAre you interested in participating in simulations like these? Apply for membership to the analytic community here.

Stay tuned to Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter channels for updates and insights from this simulation!

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Miriam L. Campanella


Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Miriam L. Campanella. Questions and Ms. Campanella’s answers are transcribed below.

Miriam Campanella

Miriam L. Campanella is a Jean Monnet Professor at the University of Turin and a ECIPE Senior Fellow. She has published extensively on European monetary and financial institutions, contributing to several edited books and journals. With Sylvester C.W. Eijffiger, she co-authored EU Economic Governance and Globalization (2003). Since then, her research focus has shifted to Asia and the region’s attempts to build up independent monetary and financial facilities.

Omololu T. Hebron: What will be the implications of monetary and financial integration in East Asia on the economies of the developing countries? Will these developing economies benefit more in such a regional bloc in terms of manufacturing and boosting of their domestic economy?

Answer: Your question touches on a major issue in economics, as it relates to monetary integration, a proxy of a fixed exchange rate via an anchor-basket or a major currency (or a synthetic currency, as the European Currency Unit in the European Monetary System) that delivers trade-promoting gains for the parties involved.

European Union (EU) members with the bilateral Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) in 1980, and European Monetary Union (EMU) in the 1990s, took almost three decades to stabilize exchange rates and finally establish a single currency. This coordination exercise helped indeed to adjust EU economies to meet in some way the parameters of an optimum currency area, conditional to the success of a single currency. According to economists of different quarters, this way is barred to East Asian countries as the U.S. dollar plays a pivotal role in the area.

Given that the Europeans took three decades to work out a regional exchange rate diplomacy, and to adopt the euro, East Asia, in the wake of 2008-2009 financial crisis, started moving in a surprising way. The collapse of trade financing during the crisis, which contributed to a 20 percent drop in China’s exports, made Chinese authorities aware of the intrinsic instability of the existing monetary regime which is based on one national currency that performs the role of global reserve currency. In order to bypass the U.S. dollar, the middleman of regional trade, the People’s Bank of China intensified bilateral currency swap agreements signed with other central banks to insure against a repeat of these events.

A second defining moment came with the RMB becoming a reference exchange-rate anchor. When this role intensifies, a currency bloc tends to develop around the reference currency whose monetary policy becomes dominant. Since 2010, the RMB has surpassed the dollar and the euro by becoming the top reference currency in East Asia and the Philippines. The dollar’s dominance as reference currency in East Asia is now limited to Hong Kong (by virtue of the peg), Vietnam and Mongolia. Yet the RMB as the top exchange-rate reference currency is not restricted to East Asia. For Chile, India and South Africa, the RMB is the dominant reference currency. For Israel and Turkey, the RMB is a more important reference currency than the dollar.

These developments are evidence of the relevance of the China’s RMB as an exchange rate stabilizer, a critical factor of trade performance to developing economies. (more…)

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Ask a Senior Analyst — Michael J. Geary


Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter followers recently engaged in a 24-hour exclusive Q&A session with one of Wikistrat’s Senior Analysts, Michael J. Geary. Questions and Mr. Geary’s answers are transcribed below.

Michal Geary

Michael J. Geary is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Europe/European Union at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, a Non-Residential Global Fellow at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC and a Visiting Fellow at the Institute for European Global Studies, University of Basel, Switzerland. He is the author of two books and numerous articles/op-eds about the process of European Union (EU) integration and enlargement, transatlantic relations and British-Irish relations

Mr. Geary has held distinguished fellowships including a Fulbright, Global Europe Fellowship at the Wilson Center and a European Parliament-Bronisław Geremek Research Fellowship at the College of Europe (Warsaw). He holds a PhD from the European University Institute, Florence, Italy.

Shaun Riordan: With the deepening integration of the eurozone, the European Union increasingly seems divided into (at least) three parts: the eurozone, the Eurosceptic North-West and a somewhat abandoned Eastern Europe (also seeing increasing nationalist thinking). How do you see this de facto three speed EU development, what implications does it have for the Treaty of Lisbon (and the European Commission) and how will it impact Britain’s relations with the EU?

Answer: Much depends on how one defines Euroscepticism. It is not necessarily an unhealthy phenomenon. The problem arises when it gets bound up with unhealthy doses of nationalism and right- and left-wing propaganda and the reluctance of mainstream parties to combat the rhetoric. There are differences and divergences between the 28 member states on certain policy fields (foreign policy, agriculture, environment). These have always existed, but managing differences perhaps has become more challenging with each round of accession.

The multi-speed or multi-dimensional nature that you describe is a cause for concern, but I would argue is an inevitable result of the nature of the integration process linked to successive rounds of enlargements. An enlarged EU does not necessarily mean deeper integration with every member state on the same bus and going in the same direction. Each of the 28 is faced with particular national challenges and each has a different relationship with, and approach to, European integration and its direction. Differences have existed since day one whether these are related to policies or visions. The euro and Schengen Area are examples of the multi-speed nature of the EU’s policy framework.

Britain (like other countries) has been able to negotiate op-outs and most likely will continue to exercise this option into the future. London seems to have greater issue with decisions emanating from the Council of Europe than with decisions from the EU’s legal watchdogs. I do not think this continued piecemeal integration greatly affects British-EU relations. Part of the problem for London will be to convince the other 27 capitals (and the EU institutions) to agree to the package of changes (still undefined) likely to be sought after next year’s British general election (should the Conservatives return to government).

There seems to be very little appetite in wanting to accommodate London’s demands (unlike in the mid-1970s, but the Community only had nine members then). Attempts to forge deeper links between eurozone countries through wider treaty changes (a new EU treaty) would allow Britain the opportunity to seek a grand bargain mirrored on what David Cameron mentioned in his January 2013 speech on the subject. Much will depend on the generosity of his EU counterparts and their interest (or lack thereof) in keeping Britain inside the EU. The integration process will continue with Britain maintaining semi-insider status. Much more interesting is whether Britain withdraws from the Council of Europe and the impact that this might have on its relations with the EU. (more…)

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When Scotland Leaves the UK: How Will the World React?


How will the world react to Scottish independence? Wikistrat’s newest infographic shows there are three scenarios.

When Scotland Leaves the UK Wikistrat Infographic

Based on Wikistrat’s recently concluded crowdsourced simulation “When Scotland Leaves the UK,” the infographic shows three scenario pathways for an independent Scotland, each with different implications for separatist movements elsewhere, the European Union and Russia.

Click here or on the image above to see the full version.

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The Ottoman Presidency? Report Released


If, as expected, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan wins his country’s presidential election this month, he is likely to use his mandate to consolidate his power domestically — which will be seen as a move toward authoritarianism that will increase popular dissatisfaction.

The Ottoman Presidency Wikistrat report

This was one of the main findings from a two-day crowdsourced simulation Wikistrat ran in late July called “The Ottoman Presidency?” in which some 35 analysts, including Turkey experts, Middle East generalists and political theorists, collaborated to develop 21 distinct scenarios that described potential pathways for the first year of an Erdoğan presidency.

In the report released today, Wikistrat Senior Analyst S. Ayse Kadayifci-Orellana summarizes the simulation’s findings in 11 strategic takeaways.

While the simulation concluded, by and large, that Erdoğan would use a presidential election victory to expand his own power and entrench his ruling AK Party, Wikistrat’s analysts cautioned that this pathway is conditioned on continued economic success for Turkey and improved relations with the country’s large Kurdish minority.

Wikistrat’s analysts also pointed out that Erdoğan’s victory might not play well abroad. Western allies of Turkey will be disconcerted by the country’s rising Islamism while Middle Eastern Sunni states, especially Egypt and the Arab Gulf monarchies, see Erdoğan’s pro-Islamist and “Neo-Ottoman” foreign policy as detrimental to their national security interests.

Click here or on the cover image to download the PDF report.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

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An ISIS Spillover Into Jordan Report Released


An attempt by Sunni Islamist militants to infiltrate Jordan would pose a significant challenge to the embattled kingdom. But there are opportunities for the country as well, Wikistrat’s analysts say.

An ISIS Spillover Into Jordan Final Report

Recent conquests by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) — which now calls itself the “Islamic State” — have put the country of Jordan at risk. The group has proclaimed a caliphate that aspires to consolidate political and religious control over the entire region.

Jordan already finds itself under great pressure, hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian, Iraqi and Palestinian refugees — some affiliated with the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda and other Salafist groups. Originating from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, the country’s diverse population makes it vulnerable to the influence of radical forces. A serious infiltration by ISIS into Jordan would not only pose a threat to the stability of the Hashemite Kingdom but could also drag Israel and the United States into the conflict.

Earlier this month, Wikistrat conducted a two-day crowdsourced simulation in which its analysts were asked to identify the ways in which the Islamic State could seek to penetrate Jordan.

In the summary report released today, Wikistrat Senior Analyst Jeffrey Itell highlights four paths the Islamist organization could take to infiltrate Jordan. While none of the scenarios seem promising for the Islamic State, Jordan is under significant pressure from unprecedented numbers of refugees, chaotic civil wars on two borders, turbulent politics and an overall weak economy. Any major misstep could provide the Islamic State with an opening that is not readily apparent. At the same time, recent events may present Jordan with opportunities to improve its security as well.

Click here or on the report’s cover image to download the PDF file.

A summary of the report was also published this week in The World Post, The Huffington Post‘s international edition.

For more information about Wikistrat and for access to the full simulation archive, contact

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New Wikistrat Discussion Forum: The Future of Warfare


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What is the future of warfare? Which aspects of war are immutable and which are likely to evolve? How will the nature and character of warfare change over the coming century?

To answer these questions, Wikistrat launched a Discussion Forum this week called “The Future of Warfare.” Over the course of the next couple of weeks, analysts can share their thoughts on future threats, technology and the changing role of the individual soldier.

The past three decades have seen the rapid adoption of new technologies in all domains of warfare. The advent of unmanned systems, precision strike, persistent and expanded sensors and cyberwarfare — to name but a few of the dramatic changes — seems to indicate a new “Revolution in Military Affairs.”

This discussion is intended to carry on this conversation and question whether or not such a revolution has occurred — and what the future may hold.

WS AnalystsAre you interested in participating in conversations like these? Apply for membership to the analytic community here.

Stay tuned to Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter channels for updates and insights from this simulation!

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New Wikistrat Simulation: The Ottoman Presidency?


The Ottoman Presidency banner

In anticipation of the Turkish presidential election, Wikistrat launches a two-day “speed simulation” today. Analysts are asked to assess whether Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the current prime minister, will be able to create an “imperial presidency” if indeed he wins the election and whether a victory will enable or frustrate his “Neo-Ottoman” foreign policy.

Erdoğan is widely expected to win his country’s first direct presidential election on August 10. Opinion polls have put him consistently ahead of his closest rival, the veteran diplomat Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu, although recent surveys have given Erdoğan less than 50 percent support, raising the possibility that a second-round runoff will be needed to determine the winner.

An election victory would be a welcome boost for Erdoğan who has been accused of abusing his office to stave off corruption probes. The premier is popular among conservative Sunni Turks, especially in the Anatolian heartland, but also among the urbanized middle classes that have benefited from his relatively liberal economic policies. However, in the major cities and among the young, he is increasingly seen as marginalizing non-pious and secular Muslims while pursuing a reckless foreign policy.

The question in this election, then, is not whether Erdoğan will win, but what he will do with his victory — and how the opposition will react.

WS AnalystsAre you interested in participating in simulations like these? Apply for membership to the analytic community here.

Stay tuned to Wikistrat’s Facebook and Twitter channels for updates and insights from this simulation!

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